wiser today

A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

Lawrence Wright


Nearly every month for twelve years the Kellmans went into the city to visit the Child Development Center on West 57th Street, in the offices of the Jewish and Catholic Board of Family Services. Dr. Peter Neubauer was director of the center. David took intelligence tests and batteries of ability inventories. Every step of his development was observed and recorded. The moment that he first rode a bicycle was captured on film, as were many other hours of him playing with toys and talking to psychologists. The Kellmans were also interviewed, as was David's older sister.

David was small—he weighed less than four pounds at birth—and the Kellmans worried that he might be retarded because he was born prematurely. He turned out to be a bright and playful child, as many psychologists, pediatricians, social workers, and testers could attest. 'David began talking very early,' Mrs. Kellman says, 'and I remember him waking up and saying, 'I have a brother.' We would all talk about his 'imaginary brother.' We laughed it off.'

Nineteen years after David's birth a peculiar coincidence occurred in upstate New York that would turn his life upside down. Robert Shafran, a dark-eyed young man with a square jaw and a riotous mane of curly black hair, enrolled in Sullivan County Community College, planning to study hotel and restaurant management. Soon after Shafran arrived, people he didn't know began saying hello to him and calling him Eddie. 'When I told them I wasn't Eddie, somebody who knew Eddie quite well, who knew that he was adopted, asked me when my birthday was and whether or not I'd been adopted,' Shafran later recalled. 'And when I told him, he told me that he thought perhaps I had a twin brother.' Robert Shafran and Eddie Galland met that very night. They couldn't believe how much they had in common: for instance, they were both wrestlers and they had the same favorite maneuvers, the same record, the same fastest pin. They had watched the same movies and could mimic the same lines. 'It was just wild, surreal,' says Shafran. 'The next thing we knew we were on the front page of every newspaper in the country.'

IDENTICAL TWINS UNITED AFTER MORE THAN I9 YEARS read the headlines on 18 September 1980. The reunited twins story is a venerable chestnut in journalism, one of those rare and quirky good-news items that is guaranteed to gain international exposure, along with stories of pets that have tramped across the country to find their masters. Perhaps what is so compelling about the story of reunited twins is the implicit suggestion that it could happen to anyone; babies actually do get lost or separated, and however rare such an event may be, when a person finds his twin it feeds the common fantasy that any one of us might have a clone, a doppelganger; someone who is not only a human mirror but also an ideal companion; someone who understands me perfectly, almost perfectly, because he is me, almost me. It is not just the sense of identity that excites us but the difference; the fantasy of an identical twin is a projection of ourselves living another life, finding other opportunities, choosing other careers, sleeping with other spouses. An identical twin could experience the world and come back to report about choices we might have made.

But there is a darker and more threatening side to the story, and this may be the real secret of its grip on our imagination. We think we know who we are. We build up internal barriers to the world, and the barriers are our identity. We struggle through experience to build our character. Our task is to make ourselves unique by understanding who we are and what we like and don't like and what we're willing to stand for. We become the people we choose to be; this is the premise of free will. Suppose, then, we meet an Other who is in every outward respect ourself. It is one thing to imagine an Other who has lived a life, been marked by it, and become uniquely different from us. But if through some whimsical accident of fate we arrive at the same place, if we discover that we are fundamentally alike despite our various experiences, isn't there a sense of loss? A loss not only of identity but of purpose? We wonder not only who we are but why we are who we are.

One can imagine, then, the feelings that ran through David Kellman's mind when a friend at Queens College handed him the newspaper that day, and in the photograph that accompanied the story were two young men who looked exactly like him. David Kellman was the third piece of a puzzle that had been separated nearly two decades before. That night all three were on the phone with each other, comparing lives, asking each other questions about school and food and sports and women. 'It's all the same! It's all the same!' Eddie kept crying.

When the three of them finally got together, they quickly learned that they had something else in common. Each had been adopted from Louise Wise Services. When they were young each of them used to go to the Child Development Center to be studied. Each had a sister who was two years older and who had also been adopted from the same agency. The architecture of the study began to make itself apparent as they talked. They had each been placed in Jewish homes, but of widely differing social classes. Robert Shafran's family lived in affluent Scarsdale; his father was a doctor and his mother was a lawyer. Eddie Galland's family lived in a middle-class suburb in New Hyde Park, Long Island; his father had a master's degree in industrial arts and taught shop in a local high school. David Kellman's parents were high-school graduates who lived in a blue-collar neighborhood in Queens. As they talked, they wondered why they had been separated.

'I've thought about it for quite some time,' says Shafran, who is now studying law in New York. (At one time the brothers operated a restaurant in the SoHo district called Triplets, which is now run by David Kellman alone.) 'I'm sure it all started with some distinguished psychiatrist and a roomful of people, and the brilliant idea arises of a new way of studying nature versus nurture. "Okay, we'll separate these kids and watch them grow." This is nightmarish, Nazi shit.'

Dr. Neubauer did not personally counsel the adoption agency to separate twins and triplets—that decision, he says, was made by Viola W. Bernard, the agency's chief psychiatric consultant—but at the time he was in favor of the idea. He also points out that twins were treated no differently from ordinary siblings. 'When a girl would have a child and it would be given up for adoption and then she would go away and have another child, it never occurred to anyone to place them together because they may be siblings. So the advice was given to Dr. Bernard to separate them. She acted on the information available at the time—that twinship was a burden.'